In a weekend full of intense racing at the Italian Grand Prix, Red Bull Racing emerged victorious, leaving Ferrari scrambling to keep pace on their home turf at Monza. Powered by the relentless drive of reigning champion Max Verstappen, Red Bull showed superior performance throughout the weekend. Though Ferrari put up a valiant effort, cheered on by crowds clad in Ferrari scarlet, it was clear that Verstappen was on the cusp of breaking the record for most consecutive victories held in the Italian Grand Prix.
This electrifying weekend also saw significant developments, including contract extensions, potential shifts in the driver market, and the resurgence of the ‘flexi-wings’ debate among technical experts in the paddock. Let’s delve into the 10 key takeaways from the 2023 Italian Grand Prix.
Setting a new record, Verstappen clinched his 10th consecutive win. There had been debates on whether Ferrari legend Alberto Ascari’s nine consecutive wins record (held over the 1952 and 1953 seasons) had actually been broken by Sebastian Vettel in 2013, owing to Ascari’s non-participation in the Indianapolis 500. Now, the record is unequivocally Verstappen’s. Even with Carlos Sainz putting up a robust defence, victory for Verstappen was all but inevitable.
According to Red Bull team boss Christian Horner, Verstappen’s laser-focused determination to break the record was palpable. However, Mercedes‘ Toto Wolff disputed the importance of breaking records, quipping that such feats are more relevant for ‘Wikipedia’.
In a marked departure from their conservative strategies in 2022, Ferrari showcased their willingness to take risks. Determined to capture success at their home race, the team adopted a more aggressive strategy. Their attempts to regain and maintain the lead from Red Bull’s Verstappen were stymied by traffic and other logistical challenges, including the team’s undercut strategy ultimately failing to provide the desired results.
Carlos Sainz’s defending skills were on full display in Monza, showing he can contend with the best of the best when placed in the right car. Defending from the pole position, Sainz managed to ward off several aggressive moves by Verstappen and Perez. Regaining the lead could have been easier for Sainz had it not been for his aging tires, but he was nonetheless able to navigate the race’s challenges smoothly.
Aston Martin exhibited resilience despite facing pressure about the use of flexi-wings and maintained a firm stand on its adherence to the rules. Team principal Mike Krack stated in no uncertain terms that changes in regulations would not inconvenience the team.
Lewis Hamilton, star racer for team Mercedes, inked a two-year extension with the team, citing a sense of unfinished business. His statement underlined his ambition to recover the team’s competitiveness and restore their dominating presence.
Highlighting overall team stability, George Russell also secured his spot at team Mercedes till 2025. Russell revealed his change of approach focusing on mastering basics and adopting a simplified setup as behind his recent uptick in performance.
In another interesting development, Alex Albon, redeemed his past regrets of missing last year’s Italian Grand Prix with a commendable performance this year. Canvassing unflinching defensive manoeuvres throughout the race, Albon brought home a respectable seventh place for team Williams.
Andrea Stella, team principal for McLaren, expressed strong disapproval for incidents of contact between two McLaren cars, reinforcing his commitment to team over individual glory. While Alex Albon‘s stellar performance hinted at a missed opportunity for Williams in the previous year, Albon shrugged it off, focusing on his current run.
Amid rumours of retirement, Lance Stroll confirmed his association with Aston Martin for 2024. Despite ranking behind his teammate Fernando Alonso substantially, Stroll highlighted his ambition and commitment to further his F1 career.
Finally, the Italian Grand Prix weekend ended on an uncertain note for Italy’s two F1 venues: Monza and Imola. While both circuits have deals in place through 2025, the growing interest in potential new markets might force Formula 1 to reconsider its commitment to keeping two races in Italy.